A Greener Green Part 1: Energy Consumption

States and businesses across the industry are taking the initiative to produce more sustainable and energy-efficient cannabis to reduce their environmental footprint.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, national attention is often negatively directed towards the industry’s environmental footprint.  Unfortunately, this is not without cause.  Because policies most often force cultivation indoors, cultivators are forced to simulate highly energy-intensive ecological conditions.  Lighting, ventilation, dehumidifiers, air conditioning, CO2, drying, and transportation are just a few factors of cultivating cannabis that requires expending energy.  Today, cannabis is the most energy-intensive agricultural commodity and remains to be one of the most energy-intensive businesses per square foot.


The Problem

The energy demands of indoor cannabis cultivation are the most significant contributor to the industry’s environmental footprint.  Although policies continue to force grows indoors, there are no industry-wide mandates to impose energy-efficient standards.  It is common for cultivators to use high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights to imitate desired growing conditions, whose illumination is on par with those found in an operating room, and 500 times higher than that recommended for reading.  Although some cultivators use the more energy-efficient LED lights, their overall environmental benefit within the cannabis industry has yet to be determined.  When using LEDs, while consuming less energy, grow cycles tend to be longer and may average out or raise overall energy expenses.

study published in 2012 estimated that energy consumption by the cannabis industry accounts for 1% of the national electricity use or 6 billion dollars worth of energy – and that was in 2012.  The study also reported that national-average annual energy costs are approximately $2500 per kilogram of finished product, and one kilogram of processed cannabis results in 4600 kilograms of CO2   emissions; which is the equivalent of driving across country 11 times in a 44-mpg vehicle.

Current statistics are just as alarming.  In Boulder County, the average electricity consumption of a 5,000sqft indoor cannabis facility is 41,808 kilowatt- hours per month.  For comparison, the average household uses 630 kilowatt-hours per month.   From 2015 to 2016, cannabis cultivation and processing areas increased from 114,197sqft to 170, 341sqft, thus causing a 71% increase in energy expenditure.

Due to the federal government’s opposing stance on cannabis, producers are not able to reap the benefits that other industries do when implementing energy-efficient practices.  Cultivators and producers receive no tax breaks, nor do they have the ability to become USDA organic.


The Solution(S)

The factors as mentioned above, in addition to the current overall lack of governmental support, have led to the development of state-based certifications and incentive programs.

In Oregon, Eco Firma Farms has made outstanding improvements to their grow, allowing them to exponentially reduce their environmental footprint and bottom line.  Working in tandem with Energy Trust of Oregon, Eco Firma Farms has made multiple improvements that have led to a quick and qualitative ROI in addition to reducing their environmental footprint.  These energy-efficient improvements returned an estimated annual savings of $63,000, and incentives received for updating their operation totaled $99,800.  Eco Firma Farms currently operates on 100% wind-powered renewable energy and practice only organic pest, mold and mildew procedures.  Last year, they were awarded Portland’s General Electric (PGE) Green Mountain Energy Gold Certification, and are on track to receive Platinum Certification in 2018.

Programs and efforts to produce more environmentally friendly cannabis are starting to develop throughout the industry.  Denver currently has the goal to shrink their greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 through boosting the use of renewable energy.  In California, MITU Resources, Inc. is planning the commercial introduction of the company’s licensed Wind Shark, a self-starting vertical-axis wind turbine.  The integration of the Wind Shark into the CA cannabis sector, it is hoped, will reduce a cultivator’s daily energy expenditure by 10% and their bottom line.

As is the repeated case in the cannabis industry, it continues to grow at such an exponential rate, that supporting industries have difficulty keeping up with it.  Energy-efficient practices and standards are no exception to the rule, which also includes data collection, cultivation techniques and technological developments to name a few.  States have and continue to, create energy programs to reduce the environmental footprint created by the cannabis industry.  Independent certifications and product labeling ensure that companies are making their achievements and impact visible to consumers, thus spreading positive program awareness.  Undoubtedly, the cannabis industry will continue to grow before industry-wide energy standards are implemented, however, states, cultivators, and processors are becoming more proactive in these matters.  Steps taken now throughout the industry will have a significant impact on reducing the industry’s environmental footprint, as well as further validate the industry.

This article was originally published on www.cannabistech.com by 

OLEDs Moving From Television Screens To Cannabis Grow Ops

Low heat and energy efficient lighting could dramatically change how we farm cannabis.

The arguments for switching to LED (light emitting diodes) are by now well established. Still a significant upfront investment, LEDs provide a complex spectrum of light, using substantially much less energy and emitting much less heat than conventional HPS lighting used in indoor cannabis farms.

The marijuana sector has certainly made a move towards an LED focused approach to lighting over the last decade. But is that about to change with OLEDs? Futurists have started to discuss the new possibilities posed by OLEDs, or Organic Light Emitting Diodes, in indoor agriculture, and it seems an increasingly likely move.

Despite OLEDs infiltration into our LG and Apple screens, cannabis farmers remain in the dark about the technology. OLEDs have been around for nearly 30 years, but only recently has it grabbed headlines. This is mostly thanks to their adoption by the high-end television sector. OLEDs are the reason why new 80-inch television screens are under a quarter inch thick, and flexible. So why does an OLED television technology make sense in the cannabis world?


Improving On LEDs, The Unique Characteristics Of OLEDs

441x200_bend_OLED_copy_2Newer iterations of OLED technology now use graphene as the organic material, which is cheaper and easier to produce than previous designs. Yet, graphene is still challenging and expensive to mass produce. Screens using OLEDs, which arguably produce the best image in the industry, are almost always the most costly option for consumers and producers alike.An OLED is a stable structure made up of extremely thin layers of organic material, now mostly designed out of a compound called graphene. The screen is exceptionally flexible, can be ink-jet printed and just like LEDs it produces light when an electric current passes through its structure.

If OLED technology is still in its infancy, why are some cannabis industry analysis theorizing about OLEDs replacing LEDs? OLED technology has in many ways taken all the best components of LEDs, and improved upon them. For example, OLEDs require much less space to install yet produce the same intense light as an LED.

An OLED lighting system would require under an inch of space, thereby allowing cannabis cultivators to pack more into small grow rooms. They also produce little to no heat, which could eliminate the need for the bulky and costly HVAC systems used throughout the sector today. The energy savings, even when compared to an LED, are also substantial.

But the cost savings and reduced space requirements of OLEDs aren’t the game changer. The fascinating characteristic of OLEDs is the way they can be manipulated into innovative designs; printed on a flexible substrate and manipulated to suit the growing environment. They are thin enough to be translucent, theoretically making it easy also to take advantage of natural lighting.


The Future Of OLED Lighting In Cannabis

It’s true that OLEDs have a long way to go before they completely replace LED grow lights in cannabis and for other indoor crops. But that isn’t to say the technology isn’t already making leaps and bounds towards a future in agriculture. Students at the Brunel University London have already started incorporating OLED technology into vertical farming designs.

Considering many indoor cannabis operations take advantage of vertical farming to conserve space, it will be interesting to see how OLEDs roll out in other vertically farmed crops.

Many expect OLEDs to drop in price, as manufacturing techniques improve, mimicking the course of LED lighting. Already, research centers and tech companies are working on cheaper, easier ways to manufacture graphene, which is still one of the main reasons why OLEDs are so challenging to produce.

In recent months a team at Kansas State University may have accidentally stumbled on a cheap graphene production method using a spark plug of all things. Titan Hemp has also developed an all natural hemp-based plant fiber, which they propose is superior to graphene. Currently, they’ve marketed it for superconductor batteries, but there may be future applications in OLED technology. The irony is not lost that a future of a hemp-based OLED for growing cannabis is within sight.

While OLED lighting technology is still likely a few years away in cannabis, even for early adaptors, its potential to change the industry is huge. Once again, a new method of low heat, energy efficient lighting could dramatically change how we farm cannabis. The cannabis industry is experiencing fast paced innovation in facility design and crop science, unlike anything ever seen before. Its likely OLEDs could experience a much faster adoption rate.

This article was originally published in https://www.cannabistech.com/ by Jessica McKeil

Solar System Incentives & Tax Credits

Both the Federal and State governments pay for a portion of your solar system when you purchase it.  The federal government pays 30% of total gross system cost via a Federal Tax Credit. Depending on your state they will also pay a portion of the system cost in state tax credits. In Arizona for example, the state will pay an incentive of 10% up to $25,000 for any one building. A single business can apply for this incentive twice per year to cover multiple buildings up to $50,000, or $25,000 per building. Depending on the utility there may be rebates which pay for a portion of the renewable energy or battery system.


The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is currently a 30 percent federal tax credit claimed against the tax liability of residential, commercial and utility investors in solar energy property. The residential ITC allows the business that installs, develops and/or finances the project claims the credit.  A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income taxes that a person or company claiming the credit would otherwise pay the federal government. The ITC is based on the amount of investment in solar property. Both the residential and commercial ITC are equal to 30 percent of the basis that is invested in eligible property which have commence construction through 2019. The ITC then steps down to 26 percent for projects that begin construction in 2020 and 22 percent for projects that begin in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent. Call 480-636-0321 today to learn how much in solar tax credits you can receive with a solar system for your business.


Smart Sustainability Policy Works, California Is Leading the Way to Reduce Emmssions

California’s commitment to set goals to limit emissions output is paying dividends. The state appears to have hit its first target for cutting greenhouse gases and it reached the goal 4 years early.

Data released Wednesday by the California Air Resources Board show that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped 2.7 percent in 2016  the latest year available to 429.4 million metric tons. That’s slightly below the 431 million metric tons the state produced in 1990. California law requires that the state’s emissions, which peaked in 2004, return to 1990 levels by 2020. They have a blueprint, goals and a culture to make positive change towards the climate. They have a blueprint, goals, a culture and leadership paving the way utilizing renewable energy to do so.


The emissions drop in large part reflects California’s fast rising use of renewable power. (Yessss!!!!)  Solar electricity generation, both from rooftop arrays and large power plants, grew 33 percent in 2016, according to the air board. Imports of hydroelectric power jumped 39 percent as rains returned to the West following years of drought. Use of natural gas for generating electricity, meanwhile, fell 15 percent. What does this all mean? Essentially, California is improving it’s air quality, moving into a new economy of growth and keeping it’s environment in tact for future generations.  This isn’t the end of it, they have goals to reduce emissions 40% by the year 2030.  The complete list of data across different emission sources is found on their website www.arb.ca.gov 

Call us at 480.636.0321 to learn how to lower your carbon footprint, activate your sustainability plan and lower your operating costs with solar electricity.

Lockheed Martin’s Gridstar Commercial Solar Energy Storage

The Lockheed Martin Gridstar energy storage system is quickly becoming the “go to” storage solution for large commercial photovoltaic (PV) solar systems.  They have a tremendous amount of flexibility for quick discharge and rapid recharge when properly sized with the correct PV solar systems.

grid star specs

Lockheed Martin’s GridStar Lithium turnkey energy storage systems are compact, easy to install, and scalable from 100 kW to multi-MW projects. GridStar system architecture consists of modular, purpose-built energy storage units that contain batteries, local controls software and all required balance-of-system components. The systems are certified to UL 9540 standards, a key certification for product safety for energy storage systems and equipment. Lockheed Martin is also developing GridStar Flow, featuring the company’s proprietary flow battery technology, for flexible, durable, long-duration energy storage for larger utility-scale projects. Lockheed Martin Energy is a line of business that delivers comprehensive solutions across the energy industry to include demand response solutions, energy efficiency, energy storage, microgrids, nuclear systems and bioenergy generation.